Construction worker crisis on the brink of collapse, lets build back better

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Recruitment struggles have been at record highs for a year – with 1.3 million unfilled jobs across the UK and fewer people in work than before the pandemic. This presents a huge economic challenge – with the British Chambers of Commerce (BCC) revealing the startling extent of crippling staff shortages across all sectors. 

Most notably, though, is the construction sector, with 83% of firms reporting difficulties filling vacancies, followed by production and manufacturing (79%), logistics (79%) and hospitality (78%). The research is there in black and white, and there’s no doubt that rapid reform is needed to help businesses to solve this.

The skills shortage in construction has been a growing concern for businesses operating in this sector – and a huge factor in that is an ageing workforce who, when they hit retirement age, aren’t being replaced by younger people entering the industry. The primary effect of the skills shortage in construction is cost – as it requires increased recruitment costs to try and find the right workers to fill the role.

With the government pledging to build 300,000 new homes each year, a lack of suitable, qualified candidates means that it just won’t be possible to reach that goal.  For the construction industry to overcome this challenge, it requires a rethink from businesses in their recruitment strategy and what they need from their partners.

In times of crisis, businesses must ask: are we planning ahead enough? Does our current staff provider have the most up-to-date technology to cope with my requirements? Are we using the correct model to help us overcome these challenges? Or do we need a different, more innovative approach that breaks away from the way the recruitment industry has operated in the past?

While a preferred supplier list (PSL) is currently the most common and best-understood option for temporary recruitment, it doesn’t go far enough. It can be time consuming, costly and difficult to manage, with the added hassle of only having restricted access to temporary skills needed to cover new projects. Hiring managers usually fill gaps their PSLs can’t by going off-contract – with or without approval. 

To solve today’s recruitment challenges, businesses need to consider adopting a Neutral Vendor model. Not only does this approach give those hiring for roles access to a wider pool of agencies and temporary skills without having to go off-contract, it gives them peace of mind to solve compliance headaches – because Neutral Vendors provide proactive and transparent checks that most agencies don’t. 

Construction is in crisis and there’s a pressing need to diversify. By switching to a Neutral Vendor solution, employers gain greater access to a diverse supply chain of suppliers that delivers against social value requirements with guaranteed compliance checks before candidates start a project which, in turn, should help simplify the candidate vetting process. At the same time, you gain access to a much larger pre-approved supply chain of recruitment agencies to get a complete overview of the market. Ultimately, with the Neutral Vendor model, you have greater insight into the full resourcing picture – so you can recruit temporary agency workers for the right cost, with guaranteed compliance, and full visibility of the agency worker population. 

Going back to the BCC, it’s encouraging to see the three-point action plan outlined to the government to help tackle the huge number of unfilled vacancies. That includes encouraging firms to find new ways of unlocking pools of talent – by investing in training their workforce, adopting more flexible working practices and expanding the use of apprenticeships; the government reducing the upfront costs on businesses and providing training-related tax breaks; and reforming the Shortage Occupation List (SOL) to allow sectors facing urgent demand for skills to get what they need.

In the long-term, this would likely play a part in transforming the recruitment sector’s woes, but until then, for the construction industry to build back better, one small switch to a Neutral Vendor model might just be the load-bearing wall that keeps the construction industry from crumbling on the brink of a staffing shortage crisis.

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